Researchers have set a new speed limit for the most extreme collisions in the universe. According to a study published in the journal Physical review lettersThus, the “maximum possible bounce speed” for colliding black holes exceeds 63 million mph (102 million km/h)—about one tenth of the top speed. The speed of light. This peak occurs when the collision conditions at the tipping point between the two black holes either merge together or disperse as they approach each other, according to the study authors.
Next, the researchers hope to prove mathematically that this speed cannot be exceeded using Einstein’s equations for RelativityWhich raises possible implications for the fundamental laws of physics.
“We’re just scratching the surface of something that could be a more universal description,” said a co-author of the study Carlos LustoProfessor of Mathematics and Statistics at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York told Live Science. The newly discovered speed limit could be part of a larger set of physical laws that affect everything “from the smallest to the largest things in the universe,” Lustow said.
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Earthquakes in the fabric of space-time
when two black holes When they pass close to each other, they either merge or deflect around their common center of mass before flying away. Whether black holes are moving away from each other or swirling around each other depends on their separation at the point of closest approach.
To determine the maximum possible recoil velocity of volatile black holes, Lustow and co-authors took part in the study James Healy, a research associate in the RIT School of Mathematics and Statistics, used supercomputers to run numerical simulations. These calculations touched on the equations of general relativity, which describe how two interacting black holes evolve. Lustow explained that although people began trying to solve these equations numerically more than 50 years ago, Numerical techniques for predicting the magnitude of gravitational waves Such collisions weren’t developed until 2005, just 10 years before gravitational waves themselves were first detected by a space telescope. Gravitational Wave Observatory with Laser Interferometer(lego).
Since then, LIGO has made observations Nearly 100 black holes collide. Compare data for one of these collisions with data for numerical relativity revealed “eccentric” Or the elliptical trajectory of a black hole. Lustow said: Previously, scientists believed that black holes that approach each other will move towards each other in semi-circular orbits. The discovery of elliptical orbits expanded the range of possible collision events, and prompted them to search for severe collision scenarios. “What we wanted to do is expand the boundaries of these collisions,” Lusto said.
Luestow and Healey looked at how adjusting four factors affected the outcome of the gravitational interaction between two black holes: the black holes’ initial momentum, their separation at their point of closest approach, and the direction of any rotation the black hole might have around it. its own axis and the magnitude of that rotation.
Running 1,381 simulations — each lasting two to three weeks — the researchers found peaks in the likely bounce velocities of black holes with opposite spins grazing each other. While black holes emit gravitational radiation in all directions, the opposing spins distort this radiation, creating a thrust that accelerates the bounce.
“The bouncing back of black holes after they merge is an important part of their interaction.” Emery BartosAn associate professor in the University of Florida’s Department of Physics told Live Science via email. (Bartoss was not involved in the new study.) This interaction is particularly important for places in the universe with a high density of black holes, as it may be caused by large kickbacks. Expelling the remnants of the black hole from the region entirely.
“As with every specific theoretical quantity, it will be interesting to see if nature goes beyond this in some situations that could indicate deviations from our understanding of how black holes work,” Bartos added.
Related: Can a black hole devour the universe?
New basic physics
According to Lusto, the “tipping point” that determines whether two colliding black holes will merge or revert is open to a bit of variation in the two black holes’ orbits. For this reason, Lousto likens this interaction to a smooth phase transition, such as quadratic phase transitions for magnetism and superconductivity, unlike first-order explosive phase transitions of hot water, for example, where a limited amount of latent heat is absorbed before it boils. The authors also hinted at what might be like measurement factors characteristic of these phase transitions, although more high-resolution simulations are needed to definitively determine these factors.
However, these aspects of the findings suggest the possibility of an “universal principle” that applies across scales from atoms to colliding black holes, Lustow said.
What’s more, it brings together the main pillars of fundamental physics, namely general relativity gravity The quantum theory of other fundamental forces remains elusive, and descriptions of black holes are closely related to many theories that have opened cracks in the barriers between the two.
“This is far from hard evidence,” Lustow said. “But there is a line that deserves further investigation, and maybe someone else or ourselves can make something out of it.”